Pope: Walking together is the essence of religious life
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis welcomed a group of Dorothean Sisters to the Vatican on Friday, on the occasion of their General Congregation, which opened on March 3. In his address to the sisters, Pope Francis noted that the experience of the Chapter in religious life “is a concrete way of implementing synodality: a strong time of fraternity, of listening, of dialogue, of discernment, all in the light and with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.”
A rich tradition of synodality
The Holy Father noted that the theme for the sisters’ General Chapter was “they returned by another road,” taken from the Gospel account of the Magi taking a different path to escape King Herod. But, the Pope said, “another way” can mean not only a different road, but also “a different, new way of walking.” Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who returned to Jerusalem changed from having met the risen Lord, the Pope said, the Dorothean sisters are now able to “set out on the path” shown them by Jesus Himself “in today’s life of the Institute.
Pope Francis emphasized, too, that Institutes of religious life are “repositories of a great heritage and of a rich tradition of synodality,” noting that “walking together, with Christ and in the Spirit, constitutes the essence of Christian religious life.” Walking together in the Spirit, he said,” imprints a style of communion and participation marked by mission.”
Communion, participation, mission
He then offered a brief reflection on each of these three terms: communion, participation, and mission.
The Pope told the sisters they can learn communion from their foundress, St Paula Frassinetti, who like other great founders, longed to reproduce the model of communion seen in the unity of the Apostles around Jesus, and in the first Christian community, in Jerusalem.
St Paula, he said, “also shows us the path of participation,” which she demonstrated by “allowing herself to be disturbed by the ‘cries,’ the shortcomings, the needs of her own age,” which impelled her to go beyond herself to help others.
A fruitful presence in the Church
The foundress of the Dorotheans is also a model of mission, having received the charism of “evangelising by educating, and educating by evangelizing.” This is now the mission of the Dorotheans, the Pope said, adding that they will continue to be a fruitful presence in the Church to the extent that they are faithful to this mission.
In fact, he said, although the mission of education is always relevant, it is especially so in our day, “in a cultural and social context that calls for a new ‘educational pact.’” The Pope encouraged the sisters “to give the best” of themselves, and to continually “revitalize the commitment for and with the new generations.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by appealing to the Dorothean Sisters to continue their journey “with enthusiasm, carrying forward Saint Paula’s method of education, by way of the heart and of love, to make it possible, “for each human being to shape his or her own future.”